Since 2013 our guests participating in Galicia Tour are hosted by the Cultural Center in Strzyżów and “Kłosowianie” folk group. These country parties became the tours highlights! Watch some of the best moments from 2016.
Today started very slowly and painfully due to full and enthusiastic participation in vodka bottle passing tradition at the harvest festival. Thankfully, we had the good sense to have cousin Danuta’s daughter, Paulina, drive us to our hotel last night and she picked us back up in the morning so we could retrieve our car. Before we left I explained to Danuta that I wanted to walk down to the river and grab some rocks for Dad’s rock polishing machine from the river bed – and I’m glad I did.
Today is Sunday so it was obviously a good day day to visit the church in Debowiec where Wojciech Michnal and generations before and after him were baptized, attended mass, etc. We went to the 9am mass which was well attended. In fact, it was so crowded that we had to stand in back while dozens of others stood outside the church where audio of the mass is amplified over speakers outside. The Church is called St. Bartholomew’s and it was built relatively recently (1838-1848). The outside is plainer than most in this region but the inside is beautiful.
Exterior of St. Bartholomew in Debowiec (where Michnal family would have worshipped).
Today was much more low-key than the excitement that was an explosion of new knowledge regarding the Michnal side of my family from yesterday. While we compile the info (read: while Zen compiles the information) that we learned yesterday, we decided to do a little sight-seeing.
Podkarpackie, the region in which Zarzecze exists, is probably the most rural area of Poland. It is known for only a few things other than its natural beauty. First, the area was the center of the Polish petroleum industry as it is (or was) rich in oil and natural gas. Second, it is the area where Eastern Culture and the Eastern Orthodoxy meet Western Culture and Catholicism. Third, its border with Slovakia along the length of the Carpathian Mountains has its lowest pass in this entire mountain range meaning it has a long history as a trade route between Hungary and Poland (the good part) and a long history of raiders and major battles over this strategic position (the bad part).
My sleep timing is out of sorts and I woke up at 4am. I watched the sun rise from my hotel room while I did battle with a bee. There is no AC in the hotel and it is dreadfully hot in Poland now. It was near 90 degrees today and there is no relief in sight. Eventually I met Zen for breakfast. The meal consisted of cold cuts, coffee, fruit, scrambled eggs and a lemon coffee cake. This is more than I usually eat before 8pm at home.
We set off before nine to meet out local genealogist, Marek, at the parish administration office in Debowiec. The parishioners of Zarzecze, where Wojciech Michnal is from, belonged to this parish and any records regarding births, deaths, marriages, etc. would have been recorded here.
The good news is that the Catholic Church in Poland was very good at recording such things. The bad news is that the Germans, Russians, Swedes, Cassocks, Tartars, Turks, Ukrainians, Romanians, etc. have had an annoying habit of invading Poland and destroying everything in their paths. Thankfully, the parish priests in Debowiec are friendly toward those in my situation and are more than willing to share what has survived with us.
>On the way to the offices, we pass through the village of Zarzecze which is little more than an extension of Debowiec across the Wisloka River. We stopped for the obligatory picture with the Zarzecze sign:
Me as I enter the birthplace of my great grandfather Wojciech Michnal for the first time.
I booked the trip through PolishOrigins.com, a company that specializes in heritage-type trips for people who are exploring their Polish heritage and are researching their family trees. The company was started by Zenon Znamirowski, a Polish guy about 40 years old and he has been doing this for many years now. Although he has several other guides going at the same time with various groups, he personally took care of my trip acting as my driver, interpreter, and genealogy guide…as well as a great tour guide and travel companion in Poland generally. I had shared a lot of info with him that I already had discovered prior to making my final arrangements and we discussed my goals and interests extensively before for the trip. Armed with this knowledge he had visits set up at various parishes, museums, etc. before I even left.
(…) If you’re visiting Poland, and know where your ancestors came from, I would highly suggest visiting those locations. I spent a considerable amount of time walking around Pysznica on foot, shopping in the local stores, talking with the staff and dining in local restaurants.
Wherever I’m there, I try to visit the family farm that my ancestors have owned and lived on for the last 400 years. That itself is surreal, knowing that many generations of my paternal family walked that very ground.
Original family farm
Prior to leaving, it became somewhat of a joke between my cousin Gienek and I stating ‘Don’t you know who we are? We’re Mierzwa’s, we ruled this town!’ We were able joke and say that because at one point in time, our ancestors were actually mayors of the city.
We left Poland this morning enroute to Slovakia. Along the hilly roads we saw women in babushkas, a dog that would not budge from the middle of the road, stork’s nests and a dog corralling cows into a pasture. The earth had become less fertile. It was now yellowish and claylike. Fields were used more for grazing than vegetable production. The surroundings were very rural and houses spread out.
We dropped down into Slovakia through a low mountain pass and first visited the medieval town of Bardejov, a UNESCO Heritage Site. We knew only one Slovak word, ďakujem – “thank you.” At one cafe, where we warmed with coffee and richly flavored hot chocolate, we were given servings of fresh cinnamon torte, “gratis” by our pretty Slovak waitress. Wonderful memories. (more…)
We just received and email from Phyllis who visited Poland with her daughter Alysse last year. They took with us the Galicia Tour and just after that their Genealogy Tour with our guide Lucek. Here: http://polishorigins.com/document/ftt_testimonials#phyllis you can read Phyllis’ impressions after the two trips.
In the email Phyllis shares with us video shot and produced by Alysse and her team. We are happy and moved of being at least a small part of this experience. But the most important was the commitment of Phyllis and Alysse to make all the discoveries happen!
Everything is beautifully and professionally shot and put together by Alysse and the team from Myriad Media from Raleigh, NC. Just watch it by yourself!